Author: Helena Hypercube

‘Ndrea pressed herself into the blood-soaked ground and swore under her breath. She had never had a peace-brokering mission go this badly wrong before. Someone in the Central Office had severely underestimated the volatility of the situation, and she was the one left trying to stay out of the crossfire until the two groups of sentients either got tired of shooting or killed each other off. And all this, over the mining rights to two moons that nobody had cared about until some new substance was discovered on them.
She relaxed slightly as the whine of laser bolts died down. Keep calm, she reminded herself. You cannot broker peace if there is no peace in your heart. The platitude sounded hollow today. She had been patient, calm, considerate, and understanding, right up until it became necessary to hit the ground. Now her famous reserve was beginning to fray. The calmer she stayed, the more agitated the delegates had seemed to become. It was time for a new tactic.
‘Ndrea heard the field command officer in front of her order his troops to secure their weapons, and a few seconds later, the field command officer behind her gave the same order.
She bounced to her feet. “HEY!” she bellowed, anger clear in her voice. The officers turned to gape at her in surprise. “DO YOU KNOW WHY I’M HERE?”
The top negotiators turned and picked their way toward her, avoiding the bodies and parts of bodies littering the ground. When they were close enough for easy conversation, the Balikanti leader stated, “I thought you were here because the Central Office sent you to try to prevent a war.”
“That’s why they sent me. I came because I can stand to see the results of beings throwing grenades at each other, but I DON’T LIKE IT!” she snapped. “I hate seeing beings suffer unnecessarily.”
“You are angry.” The Balikanti leader sounded surprised, and pleased. “I did not think a Central Office Peace Broker was capable of caring enough about a pair of minor feuding groups to become angry. Or are you only angry at the failure of your mission?”
“I haven’t failed, yet. Admittedly this will not look good in my report, but by the Central Office’s criteria, this situation can still be satisfactorily resolved. At least, it can if you are willing to resume talking.”
The Balikanti leader looked at his Itnakila counterpart and nodded. “I believe so, if we are permitted to yell properly.”
“The Central Office Peace Brokering Manual states that belligerent groups should be discouraged from violence in any form, including speech, but if you wish to amend the Code of Conduct for this negotiation, I am more than willing.”
“Good. How else can we communicate the depth of the words, except by using the full range of possible expression?”
“Well, then, yelling shall be permitted in these circumstances. What about name-calling?”
“Of course. Shall we proceed?” The Balikanti leader looked at the Itnakila leader again, who made a majestic gesture of assent. “My aides will find us a more pleasant place to meet, while the medics tend to the wounded and the priests tend to the dead. And I must remember to have someone extend a formal invitation for you to participate in our next Shouting Match. My people have never heard a Peace Broker yell before. I think you have a very good chance of winning.”

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